British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook is set to confront Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe over the violent political turmoil gripping the former British colony.

President Mugabe was due to lead the Zimbabwean delegation at a two-day E-U-Africa summit, getting underway in the Egyptian capital Cairo on Monday.

The Zimbabwean and UK delegations will be seated close together in the conference room.

Relations between the two countries have grown increasingly strained in recent weeks.

British Foreign Office ministers have repeatedly condemned President Mugabe’s failure to order his security forces to implement judicial orders to remove squatters occupying white-owned farms.

And Britain voiced grave concerns when on Saturday brutal force was used against demonstrators protesting against the farm invasions.

President Mugabe, for his part, has accused the British of colonialism and interference.

SOUNDBITE: (English)
“Well the U-K is trying to teach us how to run our country. Naturally we resist that. We do not accept – we are not a British colony any longer. We are not the only developing country with problems. There are many countries with problems. Zimbabwe is far better that the average developing country. You come to Zimbabwe and you will see. We are not a collapsing economy. We have difficulties at the moment but certainly we have a strong asset base and we will not collapse. But when we have difficulties, you see, Britain has no right at all to try and suggest to the rest of the world that we are a failure, nor have they a right to try and suggest to us what we should do. We are not an extension of Britain, we have said. So this is the main area of difference between them and ourselves”.
SUPER CAPTION: Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe

Britain’s shadow foreign secretary Francis Maude has renewed calls for Zimbabwe to be suspended from the Commonwealth.

But President Mugabe insists that if any country deserves to be sanctioned, it’s Britain.

SOUNDBITE: (English)
“If there’s any country that should now be considered for sanctions, it is Britain for interfering in the domestic affairs of Zimbabwe.
Q:Britain also wanted to raise this issue during this summit. Do you think it’s appropriate?
“Well, the British have no standards, apparently, to guide them and if they do, they would be misfiring. And since I’m here I’ll take care of them”.
SUPER CAPTION: Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe

The U-K is also concerned about threats by former guerrillas to instigate violence if the Zimbabwean government is defeated at forthcoming elections.

Those elections were originally set for April but are now likely to be held in July.

SOUNDBITE: (English)
“The elections – we have been announcing the stages we are taking. We have a delimitation commission which is working on delimiting the constituencies. As soon as they are through we will announce a date. But we can announce a date before. But next month the elections should take place”.
SUPER CAPTION: Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe

On Sunday, at a preparatory meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Cairo ahead of the summit, Robin Cook proposed that the E-U should offer to send officials to monitor the elections to ensure that they are “free and fair” – a suggestion likely to infuriate President Mugabe.

During those same discussions, Robin Cook proposed that the situation in Zimbabwe be added to the agenda for the next E-U General Affairs Council on April 10.

Britain has drawn up contingency plans to evacuate up to 20,000 British passport holders from Zimbabwe, should that prove necessary.

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